Wednesday, 20 July 2011

GREEN IS FOR . . .by Penny Dolan

I am off to buy a green t-shirt today.

This is not because I am involved with the Tour de France, or am a member of the Sherwood Forest Appreciation Society or am given to hiding myself behind hedges.

It is because I have devised a strategy for dealing with that unspoken Writers Problem. Raging Jealousy!

I was with a group of writers recently and suddenly heard one of the mildest, sweetest people ever admit that she had occasional twinges of jealousy. She? She occasionally felt jealous too? Someone like that? Then I was not alone!

Dear Reader, I broke out into a loud rant about things that make me feel bitter and twisted and angry and jealous and cross with myself, and there are plenty.

For example, I get angry about the writer who suddenly turns out to be related, involved or working for someone Famous, Rich and Influential.

I get angry about supposed “children’s authors” who don’t write their “bookwords” nor even read their books - probably because they are already Famous, Rich and Influential.

I get angry about the rise of the non-existent “children’s author”, the brand names emblazoned across a host of gender-biased series, even though I know there are many real writers happy to be paid for this quiet anonymous work.

It is the lie behind the branding that makes me uncomfortable: “Now, children, who is your favourite author?” Does that “author” even exist?

Please note that I do not rant or get angry about the good writers, the people who write so well that I am in awe of them. I never feel jealous of them or the praise they receive.I feel inspired and encouraged by their words, no matter for what genre or “age.”

It is the unfair, unjustified fame that fills me with jealousy and turns me crabbit and cross at my desk. I have at last, before it shrinks me down into a wizened hob-goblin,worked out how to deal with this rage. Remember that green t-shirt?

I have resolved that, every so often, I will put on my significant green garment and give myself permission to rant and rage and let all the angry stuff out of my soul. I will howl at the moon, away from you all, in private, alone.

Then when the raging is done, I shall hide my jealous green t-shirt in safe secure place and be calmness and sweetness and light and probably write about fluffy kittens too.

Do you ever get the raging jealousies too?

A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E, now out in paperback.
Shortlisted for the Historical Association's Young Quills Award.


catdownunder said...

Oh - hsve you any idea how jealous I am of all you well purrublished authors with your seemingly endless pages of well arranged cat hairs?
I think it happens to all of us...but a little raging and ranting can, I suspurrect, be healthy.
A Cat.

Linda Strachan said...

Great idea, Penny, your green t-shirt! I think it is only human to be jealous now and then.

There is a line in the Desiderata that goes something like this '...there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself...'

People rarely admit to their bad times and it is important to be able to share the good times, but we need to remember that no one has it easy all the time, do they?
I think it is important to find a way to exorcise these feelings so that they don't build up into something greater than they are and make you grow bitter in the process.
You also need to decide who you can safely rant and rave to when you feel this way, someone who will understand that it is just letting off steam and will not make it public or cast it up to you afterwards!

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Catdownunder & Linda.

Linda, I so agree about not knowing what troubles other people are facing behind the scenes - which gives any jealous feelings guilt as well as anger.

But we do need safe places and ways to lay down all the anxieties that can get in the way of our work.

Cat, it does all depend where your feet are placed at that moment in time. I can remember longing to have one of my stories published, and that burns too! Sympathies!

Jo Cotterill said...

LOL Penny, I was looking online only on Monday for green t-shirts that could be personalised! I was thinking of:
'Today is a Green T Shirt Day.
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.'

Or possibly: 'Warning. May rant.'

LOL! Someone just posted on FB that they were shortlisted 'again' for something they didn't win. And I uncharitably muttered, 'At least you were shortlisted...'!! It strikes us all!

Penny Dolan said...

Even you, Jo, with so many young readers loving the (written by your own hand) Sweethearts series too?

We're just never satisfied. And even with shortlists there's always the feeling "surely some mistake"?

Still trying to decide on the right t-shirt wording myself. In a quiet place.

karen said...

Part of what may fuel these feelings is the knowledge that author success (or failure) is not only down to talent or craft, but also that truly random element of luck. It can leave us feeling very out-of-control of our own careers. Having just peeled open my new copy of 'Writing The Breakout Novel', however, I'd say there's some great, down-to-earth advice between those covers for feeling in control. Great post! Can't wait to see what you and Jo do with green T-shirts!

Leila Rasheed said...

"seemingly endless pages of well arranged cat hairs? "

I feel this is a too accurate description of my WIPs :) Cat hairs they may be, gripping and well-written stories less so!

Karen, I agree with the problem of feeling out of control. Interesting to hear you also praising the Donald Maas book - have heard a lot of good stuff about it. I also just reviewed Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer on my blog, which also has good advice for feeling in control of your writing life: if you're interested.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Don't get me started on non exsistent authors...GRR! That was one reason I wrote the Sand Dancers stories.
I try to hang on to the saying -'Someone elses success is not your failure' but I have my share of Green T moments! I always acknowledge my pangs amongst friends when I hear their 'good news'- then we share a joke - then I can be happy and proud for them.

Marie-Louise said...

As a wise frog once said/sang 'It's not easy being green..."

Linda Newbery said...

It was lovely to hear your rant last week, Penny. Er - you haven't mentioned that particular grievance!

Penny Dolan said...

Am saving that rant for later, Linda!

adele said...

Been there, done that but NOT yet got the t shirt! Excellent post...and is that a GREEN WAISTCOAT or SCARF in your photo? Surely some mistake, even though you look v good.

John Dougherty said...

Penny, don't put any words on the t-shirt! While it's blank, you can imagine whatever words are most appropriate - once it's inscribed, it's limited!

As for me, I agree entirely with your list of jealousies, but you left out my biggest one: terrible books that get undeserved attention because there's something interesting or controversial about the writer.

Book Maven said...

I was wearing a green T-shirt only yesterday!

It was emblazoned with the logo of the Litteralund Festival (South Sweden) which might have made those who have never been invited to a foreign festival, or indeed had a book published, feel green about me though.

Which goes to reinforce the point that we are never satisfied. That's why I chose The Fisherman's Wife as my totem tale on Kath Langrish's Fairy Tale Recollections series on her blog.

It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Penny Dolan said...

Ah Mary, would we all secretly want to be Queen (or King)of the World and the Moon and the Sun if it were offered?

A blank apparently empty t-shirt space it is John, ready for all the thoughts you want to put there close to your heart - can see you've been mulling!

And yes, now I see that my picture shows me wearing a green scarf. It is very long and very wide but the thoughts tend to slide off it easily.

madwippitt said...

You sound more puce than green ...

Penny Dolan said...

The shades vary but the flashing from the eyes is green indeed, madwippit. :-)

And how come I've got Russell Brand in my post labels when I just wanted "brand?" See what I mean about these slebs? They get in everywhere!

Cathrin said...

I'll wear a green shirt the next time I feel raging jealousy, but I can't promise that I won't hide behind a hedge, too.

One of my writing related pet peeves is when authors either state or imply that they can finish a first draft quickly. What the blast is a first draft these days? When I write at the computer, which I almost always do, I can't write a sentence without changing it several times before I start in on the next paragraph. Can we even determine how many drafts we write?

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

Penny Dolan said...

Cathrin, I think that a first draft means different things to different people. Sometimes ti comes quickly becasue they have already done a lot of work on the research and structure first, and/or it is a story about thier known world so is easier to put down or . . . all sorts of things. Not forgetting how much work an editor might do for someone already a "brand"!! I too toil over every word BUT computers - with their perfect fonts on screen tend to encourage you to do that- and it can get in the way of stepping back from your story and considering it - written and as yet unwritten - as a whole, which a quick draft can do, no matter how quickly it was put down. I don;t do a quich draft but I do mix my methods, having times when I do scribble bits by hand, away from the computer, asking questions of the characters and so on. We all have to find our own way, and it changes with different kinds of writing too! But before I make you rage at me, YES, I AGREE ABOUT THAT TOO! Especially when followed by "in a couple of weeks."

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

It's the digital world that makes us green. When there were only such things as telegrams and making trunk calls (and of course no telephone hacking!)we didn't know that the whole world was successful except 'us'!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

in fact did we even know the world was round before the digital age?

Lucy Coats said...

Love it, Penny (but sorry I missed your actual rant last week--damn!). My green tee-shirt will just say Grrrrrrrrrh...with a big blank speech bubble on the back, thus leaving room for any kind of authory or other ranting! Not that I need any encouragement, according to my dear family....